Former President Trump suggested this week that Rep. Steve Scalise should focus on his health, as the Louisiana Republican vies for the Speaker’s gavel within the House GOP conference while also getting treated for blood cancer.
Trump, who publicly endorsed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to serve as Speaker, told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on his radio show that he likes both Jordan and Scalise, but that Scalise “is in serious trouble from the standpoint of his cancer.”
“I mean, he’s got to get better for himself. I’m not talking about even country now. I’m saying got to get better. And this is tremendous stress. All of the things that you hear about, and things that you don’t want to get involved in from the standpoint of getting well,” Trump said in the interview, which was recorded Wednesday and released Thursday.
The former president said Scalise is going through “very, very serious cancer therapy,” and he also cited the “aftereffect” of the congressman getting shot and seriously wounded in 2017 during a congressional baseball game practice.
“These treatments, they drain you of strength, supposedly,” Trump said. “It’s like a draining of strength. And we need tremendous strength both inside and out, because we have radical left, lunatics like Nancy Pelosi and [fellow California Democratic Rep. Adam] Schiff and all these crazy people that are so bad for our country.”
Scalise was diagnosed in August with a blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. He is undergoing treatment and has been working at the Capitol while doing so.
Asked if Scalise’s health was the only reason Trump endorsed Jordan for the role, Trump demurred, praising both men. But he also acknowledged the dynamics within the party may make it difficult for either representative to secure enough votes to become Speaker.
“I think it’s going to be very hard, maybe in either case, for somebody to get — you know, if you lose four votes, you can’t get it,” Trump said. “I think Steve will lose far more than four, and I think probably Jim will, too. And then you end up in one of these crazy stalemates. It’s a very interesting situation.”
Scalise defeated Jordan in the conference’s internal vote Wednesday to become the GOP nominee for Speaker. But the tally was a slim 113-99 victory, with around a dozen votes for others or “present” — and even after Jordan swung his support to Scalise following the vote, it was unclear if his supporters would do the same.
Several Republicans have already indicated that they plan to back Jordan or someone other than Scalise on the House floor, and Scalise can only afford a handful of GOP defections.
The scramble to elect a new Speaker is a result of the House voting to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the role last week. Eight Republicans joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Trump ally, brought forward a motion to remove the California Republican.
Trump called McCarthy a “wonderful guy” on Kilmeade’s show but suggested his agreement with the White House in May to raise the debt ceiling without getting stronger concessions was a problem.